How did the separation of powers impact the Trail of Tears?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Separation of powers had a big impact on the Trail of Tears.  The Cherokee sued the State of Georgia over the forced removal from their lands. The Cherokee cited a treaty they made with the federal government in the 1790s that allowed the Cherokee to stay in Georgia.  This treaty recognized the Cherokee as a separate nation with separate laws. The State of Georgia refused to recognize this treaty.  The Supreme Court ruled on this case and said the Cherokee did not have to move. However, Andrew Jackson refused to follow the decision of the Supreme Court.  He said the Cherokee would have to move.  He said he would not enforce the Supreme Court’s decision.  He is claimed to have said the Supreme Court could enforce its own decision.  This, of course, is not the role of the Supreme Court.  Thus, because the powers were separated in our government, and because President Jackson refused to follow a Supreme Court decision, the Cherokee were forced to move.  It was a different era back in the 1830s.  Could you imagine a president refusing to follow a Supreme Court decision today? There would be calls for impeachment if that were to happen.  The Cherokee tribe was dealt a bad hand by these events.

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